Donavan’s Word Jar

Donavan's Word Jar

Title: Donavan’s Word Jar

Author: Monalisa DeGross

Illustrator: Cheryl Hanna

Publisher and Year: HarperCollins Publishers, 1998

Number of pages: 80

Genre: Fiction

Descriptive Annotation: This chapter book has the main character, Donavan, who does not collect anything while his friends and grandma collect multiple items. Donavan’s friends collect buttons and marbles, but he eventually begins to collect words. As his jar of words fills, Donavan realizes that he has a problem, and, after soliciting advice from his teacher and family, solves it himself. Visiting his grandma at her apartment, he settles a tenants’ argument by pulling the word “Compromise” from his jar and discovers the satisfaction of giving his words away. Donavan learns that rather than expecting someone else to solve his problem, his problem is not as important as his collection. Realizing that, his problem is solved automatically. The few illustrations are charcoal.

Linguistic and Cultural Diversity Analysis: The illustrations by Cheryl Hanna portray Donavan, his friends and family as Black in Baltimore. The book does not really teach about any diversity or different cultures but it does talk about Donavan’s friends and family who he respects for collecting different things. If the class has little diversity within itself, a discussion could be help about how Donavan has similar traits (younger sister, friends, goes to school) and differs from them (big city, boy, etc).

Interdisciplinary Connections: This is an awesome book to introduce students to using words such as persnickety and bamboozle that may not be in other stories they read. Have students create a list of words that were used in the past as a social studies lesson on how language changes by looking at what “slang” we use today versus in the past.

Other Information: This book would be great for a child not interested in reading and needed to expand their vocabulary  or could inspire some young writers to start looking for and collecting their own words. You could also read this book as a read aloud, and make it into a class project that lasted the entire school year and collect words. Students will probably need to use a dictionary while reading this book, so having a mini-lesson would be prudent.

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